Old Man Yu Gong Is Still Moving Away Mountains, 2017

Basel 2018
Long March Space
Acrylic on canvas
A member of the ‘New Generation’ group of painters that emerged in 1990s Beijing, Yu Hong combines strands of Chinese art history, from the traditional to the socialist realist, together with a sophisticated eye for the monumental absurdity of everyday life. At the core of her artistic practice is an investigation into the nature of humanity in a rapidly changing society. Old Man Yu Gong Is Still Moving Away Mountains depicts an ancient fable in which human will triumphs over nature, widely cited in both modern Chinese art history and Chinese communist narratives: Xu Beihong’s painting of the myth is a key touchstone in the localization of Western realism, while Mao Zedong’s citation of the story in a speech cemented its socialist symbolism. Influenced by traditional murals in its size, scope, and composition, Yu Hong’s painting captures mismatched and isolated characters from contemporary society, straining against a tableau of jagged rock, their elegant proportions and gestures still in accordance with art historical tradition. The artist veritably questions a visual legacy: how an anthropocentric narrative continues to persevere in Chinese society.